Teaching girls to be kind
Nov. 17, 2014
by Jenni Sebora

“Girls just want to have fun.”

Many have heard that statement, and we may have witnessed, or been a part of, “Girls just want to be mean.”

As a girl, I was in awe when females engaged in such petty behavior and nastiness. I can honestly say, I was not a “mean” girl, nor do I ever remember participating in such behavior.

To make someone feel less about herself was never part of my social agenda; still is not, and never will be.

In fact, when I work with children, tweens, teens, and young adults in various settings, teasing, bullying, and excluding behavior is absolutely not allowed, and is something I do not tolerate.

Whether I am coaching, teaching, or volunteering with young people, a steadfast rule that I adhere to and relay is that this type of degrading behavior is not acceptable. I tell them that they are better than that; they are better than engaging in behavior that affects someone’s self-esteem and can affect their self-worth long-term. Meanness is not becoming.

I believe many youngsters, tweens, and teens don’t look beyond the moment of their negative behavior, nor fully realize how teasing, bullying, and meanness can really affect how someone feels about themselves long-term.

We adults who work with young people, need to role model and teach them that unkindness can have lasting effects on the receiver, as well as the perpetrator. It is not behavior to be proud of.

The New York Times published an article written by Margaret Talbot on the subject of girls and meanness. It discusses a teacher, Rosalind Wiseman, who instructs a class about cliques, gossip, and plain meanness among girls. Her students, of course, are girls. The goal, simply put – to attempt to get girls to be nice to each other.

We think of boys as being aggressive, but girls are just as aggressive, just in different ways – with words and manipulation.

The article relays that because of girls’ social maturity and social intelligence, they can better understand how other girls feel, and thus know how to hurt other girls emotionally.

Girls can smile at another girl, but yet send a message of inferiority and degradation because of body language and facial expression.

Yep, girls know how to get that job done, and some girls really love this form of control and drama.

Girl drama, or, pardon my language, as my sister-in-law, who has raised two daughters refers to it, “girl crap.”

As parents, we need to have conversations with our own daughters about respect, and reinforce respectful communication with others, as well as being aware of how they are interacting with others.

We have to show and treat our own children with respect, as well as others. Our kids can’t do what they haven’t learned. We do need to teach our daughters (and sons, too) to be nice to each other.

We know that we are not going to be friends with everyone we come in contact with, but meanness should never be an option.

Aggressiveness does not equate assertiveness.

Girls also have to realize that they don’t deserve to be treated with unkindness and meanness. We have to have this expectation. We need to teach our girls that it is OK and appropriate to say “no” and “stop” if there is meanness directed to them (or others). Engaging in drama and cat fights will never solve problems, however.

Aesop said, “No act of kindness, however small, is wasted.”

Mother Teresa said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Negative, hurtful words can do the same to someone. Let us remember this, and teach this to our children.

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